Re: [asa] First human

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Oct 05 2009 - 16:50:42 EDT

If I may butt in, it seems to me that this whole discussion is rather pointless theologically. If only "humans" (which in a theological sense need not be equated 1 - 1 with members of H. sapiens) were really of interest to God then there would be some point in trying to decide who's in and who's out. But there's no reason to assume that only humans ARE of interest to God.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: dfsiemensjr
  Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 2:02 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] First human

  You note the problem, which springs from the normal assumptions of formal logic. Everything is divided into A and non-A. It works with some things, but not generally. To take the common example, there are clearly some men who are bald and some who are not bald, but there is no way to draw a precise line bet\ween the two classes because of the fuzzy middle. Similarly, t\here are individuals who are clearly members of /Homo sapiens sapiens/, and in the past there were members labeled /Homo/ that were not, let alone the other genera leading up to /Homo/. But to draw a line on what is essentially a continuum is a futile demand.
  Dave (ASA)

  On Mon, 5 Oct 2009 10:50:42 -0500 "Jon Tandy" <> writes:
    Let me rephrase Gregory's challenge more explicitly, as a statement. If there were no point at which there were "humans" as opposed to "non-humans", then we are not humans and thus we are *just* animals. The acknowledgement that there *are* humans, when prior to some point there *were not* humans, seems to be a reasonable and necessary assertion that we could all agree on.


    The problem for this question in practical terms is defining what is human, what *was* human as differentiated from what was previously not human, and when did that change occur. Gregory has stated that he is not so concerned about *when* or *how* (or probably even *what*), but rather simply *that*. I think *that* is the easy question, based on the presumption that we are human, and that we somehow know how to define what human is. (But is that a reasonable presumption? What is "human" Gregory, in sociological terms, since that is what you are more interested in than biological terms?)


    The problem of differentiating one species from another at one "point" in time is probably unresolvable. If organisms gradually change over time, at what point can you say that it's now a new organism? It seems a matter of almost arbitrary definition, and one that can only be done in retrospect and with broad categorization, not identifying one specific mutant. One classification that is used is the ability to interbreed, but I'm not sure that is still a valid (or the only valid) distinguishing factor that biologists use to distinguish one species from another.


    Now, I can see it theoretically possible that a "mutant" could arise that would be distinguishable from its parent, viable in terms of survival, and thus constitute a distinct moment in time for a branching lineage. Whether this can be identified for non-human to human, in a purely biological sense, I don't know. I don't believe that what makes us human or image-of-God is purely biological, but must also constitute non-temporal things (mind, spirit, agency, law, accountability, etc.).


    What I see happen in both evolution deniers and evolution supporters (among Christians) is an absolutist position on what *must be* or *what must have been* biologically. Biologists like Ken Miller defend the gapless progression of species (including humankind) with just as much evangelical fervor as evolution deniers, in so strongly opposing the "God of the gaps" fallacy as if a biological gap would somehow invalidate basic philosophical truth. Yet they can never prove that this was the case. My position is that there could have been a "gap" or gaps (origin of first life included), but I am just hesitant to base my faith or lack of faith on the existence of biological gaps, knowing how many details that science has so far been able to fill in.


    Jon Tandy


    From: [] On Behalf Of Gregory Arago
    Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 3:53 AM
    To: Schwarzwald;
    Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically


    Hiya Schwarzwald,


    Yes, you are indeed correct in saying (other than it seems you mixed the names):


    "I don't think Murray [i.e. Gregory] was asking for a specific *when* A and B are distinguished, or even necessarily a *how* A and B are distinguished, but simply *that* A and B are, in fact, distinguished. That there was, somehow and someway, a 'first man' - and that man is distinct from non-man."

    Yes, I was asking, not for a specific *when* or *how*, but rather for a *that*. This is precisely an issue of great significance, imho. It would surprise me if it was *not* an issue of importance for others too. In other words, it is the 'degree or kind' question of old.


    It seems that Murray has agreed with this, i.e. that *there was [*must have been*] a 'first man',* which is "distinct from non-man," however, with certain (imo reasonable) qualifications.


    - G.



    From: Schwarzwald <>
    Sent: Sunday, October 4, 2009 1:50:48 AM
    Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically

    Heya Murray,

    Just a short comment here. I'm in agreement with quite a lot of your perspective (sounds like you've taken in quite some interesting observations from aboriginal beliefs/practices!), but I don't think Murray was asking for a specific *when* A and B are distinguished, or even necessarily a *how* A and B are distinguished, but simply *that* A and B are, in fact, distinguished. That there was, somehow and someway, a 'first man' - and that man is distinct from non-man. Pretty simple, and I agree with Gregory about such a man existing, though I agree with you in turn about what the real importance of those passages were. So I guess I'm somewhere in the middle (though your take on Paul is also fascinating. You should be writing articles, Murray.)

    On Sat, Oct 3, 2009 at 5:35 PM, Murray Hogg <> wrote:

    Hi Greg,


      p.p.s. you wrote: "sin isn't primarily an issue of disobedience but of relationship" - this is agreeable. Once you say 'degree' to a human-social scientist, however, there is a problem (though admittedly not to all of them/us) - it *is* a full-frontal attack on HSS sovereignty (even if you didn't know this when you spoke it).


    This is a really curious remark - but I suspect my perplexity is due to the brevity of your comment.

    There are some things which - without any protestation - are a matter of degree - colours on a spectrum, volume of noise, distance from a fixed point. And I can't imagine that such facts constitute a "full-frontal attack on HSS".

    So I can only guess that the issue is that if we can't precisely delineate the "human" then all that is generally regarded as "human" collapses into the merely "natural" leaving no place for a HSS perspective. Is that about it?


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Received on Mon Oct 5 16:52:48 2009

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